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Green and Bold: Time to Prioritize Speed, Length Outside

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Green and Bold: Time to Prioritize Speed, Length Outside

It's no secret that the Green Bay Packers seemed to actively address two traits in their NFL draft selections in 2017—specifically, at defensive back—that have been missing from the roster in recent years: speed and length.

The question now is whether those traits, which second-round cornerback selection Kevin King displays in spades, can win out for a starting role on Green Bay's defense in 2017.

To start, let's take a look at the size and 40-yard dash times of all the cornerbacks on the Packers roster who will likely see significant snaps in 2017. Though rookie safety Josh Jones also represents this trend, we're focusing on the corners today. 

And, just because it seems necessary, no; the 40 is not always an accurate representation of play speed. However, it's one of the few tangible metrics we have for this trait. 

Player Position Height Weight 40-Yard Dash
Damarious Randall CB 5'11 196 lbs 4.46 seconds
Davon House CB 6'0" 195 lbs 4.50 seconds
Quinten Rollins CB 5'11" 195 lbs 4.57 seconds
Kevin King CB 6'3" 200 lbs 4.43 seconds
LaDarius Gunter CB 6'2" 201 lbs 4.69 seconds

Immediately, King's size and speed stand out among this group, even more so than similarly sized LaDarius Gunter, whose size, larger than the norm for Packers cornerbacks, was one of the upsides to his increased snaps in 2016 as a result of injuries. 

However, there weren't many other upsides, for Gunter or for sophomore players Randall and Rollins. It quickly became clear that the Packers didn't have the depth, or possibly even the skills, at the position to excel in case of more injuries (or at all?). 

After all, when you're already in the middle of injury exigencies, it's the biggest red flag to bench one of your starters for performance, as happened to Randall late in the season against the Bears. 

Now, are Ted Thompson and co. throwing the baby out with the bathwater and giving up on Randall and Rollins heading into their third seasons? Absolutely not.

But when all is said and done in 2017, perhaps those two players are coming on the field in the nickel and dime subpackages rather than starting outside. 

This is a case where the Packers might (should?) decide to prioritize speed and length over experience. King will be but a rookie in September, but he sure looks like a starting NFL cornerback. 

King's "length creates challenge for receivers used to winning at the high point," wrote NFL.com's Lance Zierlein in King's draft profile. "This young man is today's NFL corner," added Mike Mayock.

Sure, King's film doesn't show the most aggressive tackler. Meanwhile, Rollins and Gunter, for some of their other shortcomings in 2016, displayed their aggressiveness in games such as the one against the Houston Texans, in which the secondary totaled five pass breakups. Gunter himself had two. 

However, there's no question that the Packers struggle in press coverage. That's where King can come in. He's the prototypical long, press corner of today's NFL, and it's what could help him earn starting snaps over Rollins, Randall, or Gunter. 

As for Davon House, he could end up being the Packers' other starting corner. That would be a harsh reality for Randall and Rollins, relegated to subpackages three years after going 1-2 overall in the Packers' draft, but the truth is the Packers play in subpackages more frequently than in their base formation. It shouldn't be thought of as a demotion for players to spend time where they'll be most effective, and given how the Packers roster looks right now, Rollins, Randall, and Gunter look like the nickel and dime corners. 

Green Bay has been beaten by big, athletic wide receivers for too long. The secondary needs a player who can win one-on-one against them. No one is saying it's King for sure; he hasn't even appeared in a training camp with the Packers. But on paper, everything checks out. 

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (48) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

croatpackfan's picture

I do not know how will the thing at CB group come out. Maybe you are right, and King and House will be starters. But, I think that starters will be Randall and House, at least at the beginning of the year. Also, I think that Rollins was drafted to play slot, not outside. He played some outside because of the injuries.
If everything will proceed as planned I see King to replace House, more than to replace Randall...
But, who knows. I might be wrong...

PackEyedOptimist's picture

I agree, Croat, but I also suspect we fans may be wrong in thinking about "positions" (such as "slot") with Capers's defense. I think Don and McCarthy are moving toward (innovating?) a "match-up" roster. Little, quick receiver? Randall on him. Tall receiver? King on him. Etc.

Worztik's picture

Well stated my friend Croat... sounds like a plan to me!!!

Finwiz's picture

My money is on King and Randall, but could very well be King and House, with Randall on the slot guy. King was drafted to be a starter sooner rather than later.

DThomas's picture

Of course none of us know at this point who'll be starting at CB. But I think King will be starting outside opposite of either Randall or House. CB is not a particularly mentally challenging position, particularly for the two outside so I don't see any reason not to start King in the opener.

PackEyedOptimist's picture

"On paper" is right. I wasn't a King fan before the draft, and I'm still dubious. He is better on paper than he plays, in my opinion. Jones is similar. If the Packer's are right about their potential with little more coaching-up, they will make a huge difference. If. I'm still more of a Randall fan, but not "last year's Randall." Hopefully he gets back on track, like Davante Adams did.

RCPackerFan's picture

("On paper" is right. I wasn't a King fan before the draft, and I'm still dubious. He is better on paper than he plays, in my opinion.)

Just wondering, how much have you watched King play?

PackEyedOptimist's picture

I watched two or three of his games while focusing on him. He makes splash plays, but he often seemed sort of "lost" during plays. Washington had the best secondary in the country, and I think that helped him as well. I trust that TT&Co, know WAY more than I do though, so I'm hopeful.

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

If King played as well as he looked on paper, he'd be a Top-3 pick we'd never see in a Packers uniform.

As it is, the kid gave up ZERO TD's last season. He's a dragger, not a hitter, but so was Deion Sanders. We need a cover guy more than anything.

Coach him up, start him immediately, and thank the Almighty God he fell to us.

Savage57's picture

LaDarius Gunter. Just a 4.7 guy living in a 4.4 world.

dobber's picture

I think he's meant to be a S/ST person on the NFL level. I admire his moxie given the situation he was put in last fall, but I just don't see him playing much outside CB from here on...and he might not even make the 53 in September.

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

I think Gunter's gone.

Finwiz's picture

I certainly hope so. He doesn't belong in the league, let alone the Packers roster.

Razer's picture

Crazy thing considering that Gunter was basically a starting corner last year and the guy that they put up against Julio Jones and the like. Tells you the state of our secondary last year.

RCPackerFan's picture

Gunter can be a good 4th/5th CB. He shouldn't be lined up against the opposing teams #1 which he was asked to do all playoffs long. Going up against OBJ, Bryant and Julio 3 straight weeks.

An upgrade over Gunter as a Starer will be huge for our defense.

L's picture

While his 40 times did average out to 4.62 at his pro day and he was officially given a 4.69 at the combine he did manage to get as low as 4.52 (pro day) and 4.56 (combine); plus, it's somewhat disingenuous to suggest that a player with the will and drive to improve on their weaknesses couldn't see those numbers drop further as they reach their prime years (btw, I'm not suggesting you are).

While he's definitely not a burner I believe his mentality and desire has probably seen his speed improve since his rookie year -- I'd venture a guess and say that he could likely average a 40 run in the 4.5s now; though, this is just my speculation and assumption based on the guy and the circumstances of dedicated professional athletes as they reach their prime years.

RCPackerFan's picture

The one thing that I really like seeing when watching King's game tape break downs is that he doesn't allow much separation. He is always right on the receiver. When the ball is completed he is almost always right there to make the stop.
One thing that I do see that he needs more work on is tackling. When coming up to tackle RB's or WR's he tends to launch himself at their legs. Rather then wrapping up he likes to throw his shoulder a lot. He kind of reminds me of Shields a bit in that way.

He really seems to use his length to his advantage. Even when he gets a step behind he is able to knock balls away due to his reach. In one of the biggest plays that I saw him give up against Arizona State, it took a perfectly place ball for the WR to make the catch.

I am really looking forward to seeing what King can do against some of the bigger WR's in the NFL. His size and speed is something we haven't see the packers have.

By adding King and House, the CB room definitely has improved since the end of last year. With Randall and Rollins getting healthy and another year of experience, hopefully we will see much better play from the secondary.

Tundraboy's picture

This along with Jones, Burnett and HaHa at Safety/Hybrid is the new Capers master plan.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

Amazing how Big safeties and faster LBs have become critical again.

I'm glad that the Packers are moving on it. Too bad it takes them 3-4 years to realize it.

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

I see King and Randall starting outside (yeah, I'm betting on the bounce-back), with House adding outside depth. Rollins will be in the slot--precisely why we drafted him--and Hawkins will compete with Waters for the last spot. I see Gunter getting cut.

Add in another super-mobile Safety/LB in Jones to Dix, Burnett, Brice, and Evans, and this will be a much improved group.

Ryan Graham's picture

Capers has slowly (as per usual) transitioned away from the use and label of "starters" and switched to a more package player mindset, this draft will solidify that. He will have his core starters - Daniels, the two safeties, Perry, Matthews, at least 2 corners and an inside backer, likely Ryan. Everyone else will be package players.

The cornerback position by my guess will change week to week based off of matchups. You bet Kevin King will matchup against Julio Jones, Dez and AJ Green. But my guess is they have an entirely different approach against Seattle Week 1, Jones may just start in the box (until Lacy goes down at least). The secondary will look chaotic this year if health is on their side this year.

Side note - I like Kevin King quite a bit. I am petrified of his concussion history....

dobber's picture

At this stage, I think we need to assume that anyone who has played competitive football has had at least one if not more concussions at some point in their past.

Ryan Graham's picture

Sure, I see that. But I've heard of 2, one of them being in high school that was severe, and a couple other incidences. To go in hand with what you're saying, we can also assume more often than not injuries can be covered up. As was done before his bowl game in 2015. Concussions are a part of football, obviously. It's a collission sport for todays gladiators. Once they start reoccurring is when it becomes a problem. I'm not predicting the future by any means, just expressing a concern. And to not have any concern would be silly, considering Sam Shields' NFL career is most likely over for this very reason.

Since '61's picture

I think the Packers will end up with King and Randall or King and House starting outside. With Rollins and again possibly House in the slot. We might even see Jones in one of those roles as well but I would prefer for Jones to cover opposing TEs or RBs. We should chuck Gunther and Goodson, just like we already chucked Michael and Jackson at RB. Hawkins and another TC survivor can be our 5th and 6th CBs. Not only does the defense need to add length and speed we also need to add physicality and King and Jones appears to bring that as well. Time to end the no tackle defense. Thanks, Since '61

DThomas's picture

I think it's ridiculous to suggest Gunter be waived now, or before the start of TC. As has been mentioned, he was put into a position as #1 CB that he never should have been put in. But there's no reason to believe he can't excel at the #4 CB spot - which was where he was at the beginning of last season. Advocating for the waiving of Waters or Hawkins would make more sense (not that I'm advocating that). Why not let Gunter compete for a roster spot? He's certainly not going to take snaps away from King or Jones. If he doesn't earn a roster spot, waive him at the end of TC.

BTW, Goodson will likely start the season on the PUP list as he recovers from ACL surgery. Why hurry to waive him at this point? This is what McGinn wrote about him after the season: "Came off a four-game suspension and stepped immediately onto the field against Dallas, Chicago and Atlanta, playing 145 snaps after having played just 74 in his first two seasons. Performed competently in two of the three games. Competitive athlete and solid tackler. Was showing development in coverage."

BTW, Bob McGinn is retiring today. I am going to miss him A LOT.

dobber's picture

I was shocked how "OK" Goodson looked in that short sample last year. He was clearly better than the train-wreck we'd seen in previous seasons. Many of us were saying he should've just been cut last summer when he incurred his suspension, but now...

Spock's picture

MM has commented that the goal is to have guys on defense (as well as offense) who can stay on the field and play multiple positions for no huddle (i.e. no substitutions) situations. So as fans the concern over who is the "starting" outside corner, WR, etc. is kind of a non-point really. This year should see some big differences on how the offense and defense for the Packers lines up and plays.

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

I disagree, since the classic outside corner who can cover today's outside receivers is precisely what this team lacked last year.

We have plenty of slot guys. Ted saw we needed length and speed outside, so he drafted it.

Great move, Ted.

Worztik's picture

I love guys who work hard!!! Gunter was in a no win situation last year and I admire his guts! Loyalty is a thing of the past apparently... ya'all want to cut Gunter but, we can hang onto Goodson and others who never had and never will contribute... shaking my concussed head!!!!!!!

Finwiz's picture

Don't be confused, Gunter was in waaay over his head as a starting CB in the NFL. Not near enough speed, and limited skill.

dobber's picture

There was considerable sentiment here last summer to cut Goodson after he'd been suspended, and keep all these UDFA DBs that were showing well in camp. With the injuries, Goodson was almost serviceable for a couple weeks before he eventually blew out his knee (for a couple weeks it was him and Gunter on the outside). Still he's a very good ST gunner and earns his keep there. The question is, with Janis, how many "very good gunners" can you afford to keep? His contract is up after 2017, so how likely is it for him to make it off the PUP list?

Spock's picture

Breaking news: Bob McGinn retiring. I think it was time! Per the PackersNews.com website.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

Damn.

croatpackfan's picture

I wish him peaceful and pleasent retirement with no bitter taste towards Packers and life...

PatrickGB's picture

Randall and Rollens struggled through injuries most of last year. I did not see the same quality of play that they showed in their first year. Part of that was due to teams figuring them out and another was their injuries. Also Capers had them playing with a big cushion off the line perhaps that was due to the injuries, inexperience and perhaps a lost of confidence. House was the only player to limit J Jones when we played them a few years before. I also remember Gunter frustrating Beckham last year. So he can provide coverage in a limited role. I expect better coverage this year with those players this year. I also expect King to be able to play well sometime this year. All in all I expect that our DB's to do better this year. We do not have a shutdown corner as of yet. But I do expect better play from our defense. Better but not best and good but not great might just be enough when paired with an Aaron led offense.
So my hopes remain high.

Somedumbname's picture

Gunter played

Finwiz's picture

Excuses are like a-holes.

MarkinMadison's picture

Agreed. I was thrilled when Gunter hung on because he had length that no one else on the roster possessed. There are plenty of big receivers in this league that are not particularly fast. A guy like Gunter can match up well. Even with King in the fold there may still be a role for Gunter.

Somedumbname's picture

Gunter played well for an undrained guy with 4.7 speed. It is a testament to his skill. I like him as the Fithian corner on this team for now.

J0hn Denver's Gavel's picture

Fithian, Illinois?

Worztik's picture

Just West of Pretoria, IL... near East St Louie!!!!

Finwiz's picture

Wrongo, Batman

Worztik's picture

Is there actually a Fithian anywhere? I was justa joshin here,

Worztik's picture

There is prolly no Pretoria except in S Africa...

The TKstinator's picture

Prolly wanna cracker?

Somedumbname's picture

*undrafted

dobber's picture

"Green and Bold: Time to Prioritize Speed, Length Outside"

I keep reading this title and look at my calendar expecting to see that it's April 29...

Gmike's picture

I believe Randall had sports hernia surgery halfway through the season and a knee injury that never healed. The pack is so secretive about injuries that many times a severe drop off in play makes us think a player is just lousy. Randall led all NFL corners in 2016 in some efficiency metric i've since forgotten. He didn't get that bad overnight. I understand why they withhold info when they can, but as a fan it appears as if they've been thrown under the bus. If we see Rodgers limping around with a calf strain, he's a hero. Randall trying to play through multiple injuries looks like a bum.

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